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Is it Possible for a Digital Media Pro to Prosper Outside the City?

This morning I should have taken my place among the good and the great of the UK social media scene for a presentation by Adobe on its new analytics tool. Instead, I’ve been sat at my PC in the office hammering out a credentials document for a pitch, guiding a colleague on a media relations programme for a client, and devising an integrated social/PR outreach programme for another. The reason? I don’t live or work in London. And it sucks.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to either cancel attendance at a seminar or turn down an invite to a product launch or miss out on a community social because I’m not city-based. In fact, I’ve been given the nickname ‘No Show’. (I haven’t, but I should have.) And it’s extremely frustrating as the fact is that most of the time I simply can’t justify the four hour round trip from Oxfordshire to central London and back again when I have a to-do list that would strike fear into the most devoted of PR consultants.

Keeping up with what happens in the digital world isn’t easy. And the benefits of having like-minded peers with whom you can chew the fat and throw around ideas over an impromptu beer are massive. But in the UK, when you work outside London, or to a lesser extent Manchester, the former is even more challenging and the latter is virtually impossible. I can only assume it’s the same in the US with the likes of Chicago, New York and San Francisco, and in other countries too. And it feels extremely isolating. It feels like I am constantly on the periphery of the industry and the community, no matter how much time I spend on Twitter or Facebook engaging with peers and friends (who I rarely see). It feels like I have to work doubly hard just to keep up, let alone to try and get ahead (whether or not that is true, I have no idea).

Take yesterday for example. I needed to be in London for an 8.30am breakfast meeting with a digital committee I’m involved with. That meant getting up at 5.30am and, more importantly, it meant I didn’t get to my desk and start working in earnest until midday. Even for a meeting at the crack of dawn I missed three hours of desk time. And hence, there was just no way, when I sat down and assessed things at 9pm last night, that I could take another five or six hours out today.

So what’s the point? Is this post just a bitching session? Well partly, yes. I find myself immensely frustrated that I feel like my learning, my thoughts and my ideas are constrained by my own geographical isolation. But it’s more to find out from you what you think of this.

If you’re outside the city, whatever city and country that may be, do you feel the same? If you’re inside the city, do you have any sympathy or have any suggestions for me (other than moving)? And from a broader perspective, what does this say about social media in general – does it prove what many of us say about the need to take online relationships offline, or is it evidence of someone who is more remote who’s able to build those relationships where he couldn’t have done so a few years back? Over to you…

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